Water discussions continue in Colorado
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Big picture water issues, including the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, water banking and the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal, will be on the table May 26 at the Colorado Basin roundtable meeting in Grand Junction. Click here for more information on the basin roundtables.
One big concern for the regional stakeholder groups is a potentially rapid and severe erosion of agriculture on both sides of the Continental Divide as irrigation rights are converted to meet the demand for new municipal water supplies spurred by continued population growth on the Front Range.
A Colorado Interbasin Compact Committee report suggests that a mix of solutions will be needed to meet the demand, including new water supply development for West Slope and East Slope uses, conservation and agricultural transfers. The idea is to share the burdens and benefits across all water sources and demands, according to a memo prepared in advance of the roundtable session.
West Slope stakeholders are trying to present a unified front as they face the continued threat of new diversions. According to the memo, there is still pressure along the Front Range to develop big new diversion projects. As well, some political interests want to “open up county 1041 project review powers for change.”
In a session scheduled for 3:15 p.m., a facilitator for the Flaming Gorge task force will report on progress for that long-range plan, which includes a trans-state pipeline to carry water from Wyoming back to the Front Range.The preliminary plan is to examine a a possible Flaming Gorge water supply project in three phases; issue/interest identification, assessment of threshold questions and critical barriers, and, identification of preferred criteria or components of a Flaming Gorge project if one were to be built.
A Colorado Water Conservation Board official will describe the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin study, and Steve Harris, of the Southwest Water Conservation District, will give a water banking update.
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Ute Water Conservancy District facility at 2190 H1/4 Road in Grand Junctions. Click here for directions.
10:00 Introduction /Expectations
10:10 The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Proposed Solutions by Denver Water and the Mainstem Water Users
-Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District
-Jim Lochhead, Denver Water
10:50 The Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Study
-Ted Kowalski, Interstate and Federal Section Chief, Colorado Water Conservation Board
11:30 Water Bank Update
-Steve Harris, Southwest Water Conservation District
Noon Working Lunch
12:20-1:00 “Filling the Gap: Commonsense Solutions for Meeting Front Range Water Needs.”
-Bart Miller, Western Resource Advocates
1:15 How Does the West Slope Respond to the Interbasin Compact Committee Report
-Michelle Pierce, Chair, Gunnison Basin Roundtable
Thesis: The IBCC report to the governor advocates a four-legged action plan to meet the looming demand for more municipal water supplies across Colorado, but principally on the Front Range. The imperative is this: unless something changes in water planning, the current trend points to a rapid and severe erosion of agriculture on both sides of the Divide as irrigation rights are converted to meet population growth. Nobody wants to see that future.
The IBCC reported that the agreement taking shape seeks to balance meeting municipal, agricultural, and non-consumptive needs by using a mix of:
-New water supply development for West Slope and East Slope uses,
-Completion of IPPs, and,
All parts of this four-pronged framework should be pursued concurrently, the IBCC said. In this effort, the IBCC has agreed that a successful framework will be one that shares the burdens and the benefits across all water sources and demands, including consumptive and non-consumptive uses.
How does the West Slope respond?
The West Slope should respond to the IBCC report and direction in order to strengthen it. If we don’t we give support to those who say the process is broken and the Roundtables should get out of the way. Interests on the Front Range are clamoring for the state to advocate for a big water development project. They also want to open up county 1041 project review powers for change. Clearly, entities in the state know how to study, engineer, permit and finance a water project. But the state does not know how to deal with conservation, reuse, ag transfer issues and land use in an equally concerted way.
-What should be done to round out this picture?
-What response should there be from the four West Slope Roundtables to assure that all needs, including those on the West Slope, will truly be addressed?
-House Bill 1177 does not articulate that the IBCC form a state water plan but rather basin-to-basin discussion. If somebody wants to propose a project, should they just address the West Slope, or an individual basin and strike a compromise modeled on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement?
3:15 Flaming Gorge Task Force Situation Assessment Stakeholder Dialog – Heather Bergman, Peak Facilitation Group
The goal of the assessment was to talk to stakeholders around the state and determine if a Flaming Gorge Task Force would be a viable approach to the discussion about a possible Flaming Gorge Water Supply project. The Executive Committee overseeing the assessment process has recommended a free-standing, 17-person stakeholder dialogue (with State and federal agencies and project proponents participating as expert resources to the group).
It recommends that the dialogue process examine a possible Flaming Gorge water supply project in three phases:
1) issue/interest identification,
2) assessment of threshold questions and critical barriers, and
3) identification of preferred criteria or components of a Flaming Gorge project if one were to be built.
Phases 1 and 2 would end with a decision point about whether to proceed to the next phase. The goal of the process will not be to find agreement on whether to build a Flaming Gorge project or which such project to build. The goal of the process will be to advance understanding and awareness of the potential benefits and impacts of a Flaming Gorge project and to provide insight into ways to maximize the benefits and minimize the impacts of a project should one be built.
Filed under: Environment, rivers, Colorado, water Tagged: | Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, Colorado, water, Colorado River, Denver Water, water conservation, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Front Range, Water supply, Colorado basin roundtables